Archive for May, 2009

The best seven miles in Indy

Posted in Uncategorized on May 31, 2009 by Trail Boy

If a running friend from out of town asked me to recommend a trail with oodles of variety and a high fun factor, I would immediately suggest Town Run Trail Park.

It’s located about three miles from my house, and I always have a great time running the seven-mile trail loop there.

I ran the loop early this morning and was in a great mood for hours afterward.

What I love about this trail is the incredible variety within a fairly small park. Look at these photos and you’ll see what I mean. In an hour or so, you run through woods, meadows, alongside a river and by a creek. There are twists and turns and a few challenging hills.

Short sight lines and lots of turns make this a fun, interesting trail.

The trail runs past a river and several creeks, but does not cross them.

Get ready to power up this hill.

This stretch of meadow is a nice change.

Better make this tight turn or you'll end up in the White River.

Over the meadow and through the woods...

It doesn't get much greener than Town Run Trail Park in May.

You also get a bit of workout. That’s because the trail loops back and forth dozens of times up and over an earthen dike about 15 feet high, so you really need to turn on the speed every few minutes to power over the steep, short hills.

Save your legs for another run to the top of the earthen dike.

The trail is primarily for mountain bikers, and contains lots of jumps and drops that bikers love. But hikers and runners are welcome too.

Mountain bikers would rather go over than around.

Everyone goes in the same direction, to avoid head-on collisions on the singletrack.

On paper, the course resembles a tangled fishing line: lots of loops, twists and turns. And that’s pretty much how it is on the actual course. Every 10 or 20 steps, you’ll have to change directions.

If you like running with short sight lines and lots of variety, you’ll love this course. On the other hand, if you like running in a straight line for mile after mile, you might want to go somewhere else.

The red line marks the trail. Good luck trying to figure it out on paper. But it's no problem in person. Just follow the loop.

 There are only a couple of drawbacks to this course. First, a short segment (maybe a half-mile) runs alongside a busy highway, and that can dampen a trail runner’s mood just a bit.

The other drawback is that the park closes when the trails become too muddy. The biking group that maintains the trails is extremely concerned about erosion (rightly so, I think) and doesn’t hestitate to slam the gates shut after too many days of rain. I’ve been turned away, disappointed, several times. But that’s life as a trail runner.

town run 2009 058

Even on a sunny day, you'll run into a muddy patch here and there.

However, when I’m in the mood for a beautiful, laid-back trail just a few miles from my house, this really scratches my itch.

And since I like loops, cool scenery, variety and don’t like to drive forever to find them, I really think this the best seven miles a trail runner will find in Indy.

The only tough part about today’s run was storm damage in a handful of place from yesterday’s thunderstorm. Several trees had fallen across the trail, requiring me to scamper over or around. Not that I really minded. It’s all part of the charm.

Here are a few more photos to tide you over, until you run this fun little trail yourself.

Gotta love the deep woods flavor on this trail.

I'm not sure what this tree is saying, but I'm guessing it's something like: "I wish more people would run this trail."

The beautiful greenery never ends on this trail.

town run 2009 009

This tree has been split down the middle for at least two years. Every time I pass it, I wonder what happened.

I can't wait to run this trail again.

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Happy vacation — er, furlough

Posted in Uncategorized on May 30, 2009 by Trail Boy

I’m on vacation for a few days. But this is not a “put your feet up, grab another beer” kind of vacation.

Everyone in my company has to take 10 days of unpaid furlough sometime in the first six months of 2009 so the company can save a little money and we don’t have to go through another round of layoffs.

Right now, it’s my turn to cool my heels and get a tiny paycheck.

Therefore, I have plenty of time, but not plenty of money. So what is Trail Boy to do?

I’m glad you asked! I’m keeping plenty busy. In the past three days:

1) I bought a new car (or rather, slightly used) for Mrs. Trail Boy, to replace her 11-year car that keeps breaking down. So let’s hope I keep my job until I pay off this three-year car loan.

2) I weeded and mulched several flower beds, cleared a whole mess of brush, cut the lawn and designed a new garden. 

3) I began building a float for my church with a few friends.

4) I caught up with some other friends over dinner at a really fun, lakefront seafood restaurant a few blocks from my house. If you tried really hard, you could pretend you were at the beach.

5) I have generally been a hands-on dad, husband and guy about the neighborhood.

You might say: OK, Trail Boy, that’s an impressive list! But with all that yardwork and haggling with a car salesman and so forth, did you actually do any running?

Yes, of course! Since my last posting, I’ve done two short road runs (four to five miles) in the neighborhood.

And on Sunday morning, I’m planning to do a 7-mile trail run. On Monday, I will do a 15-mile long run on some trail.

Who says I’m a slacker? Happy Furlough!

Hills, hills, they’re good for your heart

Posted in Uncategorized on May 28, 2009 by Trail Boy
Yes, hills are good for your heart — if they don’t kill you first.
 
It’s been weeks since I’ve run hill repeats. And today I paid the price for my neglect.
 
After a few blasts up the hill, I was wheezing and gasping and praying that I would reach the top before I blacked out. It wasn’t pretty.

Sign at the top of the long hill at Fort Ben.

  

It’s my own fault. I should have been running hills religiously all spring. I’m sure that’s what Master Denny has been doing, which is why he is so fast. But I haven’t been, which is why my race times this year are so, um, somewhat below average.    

To tell the truth, I don’t even mind running hills, once I’m conditioned for them. But if you put them off for too many weeks, the re-entry is a bitch.    

Yes, that would be a good word to describe today’s workout. The Hill Repeats. They’re a Bitch. Rated PG-13.    

I ran the repeats at Fort Ben, about 20 minutes from my house, where I normally go to run trails.    

Trails were not an option today. We’ve been deluged with rain for two of the past three days. As much as I was tempted to run a few short loops on dirt, Mother Nature had her own ideas.    

Here is what the trails looked like:    

You could run around this puddle with no problem...

  

...but then you would run into this small lake...

  

...and finally the trail disappeared entirely.

  

Nope, a trail run wasn’t in the cards today. So I trotted back to the pavement and got down to business.    

I started off with an easy warmup, a 2 1/2 mile run on a paved, rolling bike path called Harrison Trace.    

You have to be somewhat creative to find a good hill workout at Fort Ben — or anywhere else in flat, flat Central Indiana. In all my visits to the park, I haven’t found the perfect hill — one steep enough and long enough to get your heart going.    

So what I’ve done in the past is run several back-to-back hills on the bike path. It  requires me to make a few tight turns and even run one brief downhill section (for maybe 50 feet) before I hit the last long uphill. End to end, it’s probably one-third of a mile.    

It’s not ideal, but it’s worked pretty well for me in the past. Plus the surroundings are very green and shady, which helps on hot days. And this bike trail is closed to cars.    

This is one of the turny-twisty uphills that I use for the repeats.

  

This is the last uphill straightaway. At the top is a park bench for weaklings.

  

At the very top of the last hill, there are two things that I’ve always found amusing. The first is a park bench, where you can collapse if you’ve found the hill too strenuous.    

Also at the top is a warning sign (for people heading down the hill) that says Steep Grade Ahead. Use Extreme Caution. Every time I run past that sign (hundreds of times, over the years), I always laugh. OK, it’s a hill, but I wouldn’t consider it a steep grade. It’s a medium grade, if that. Sure, if you ride a skateboard down it, your hair will blow a little in the wind. But it’s not like a mountain road. I’ve always thought the sign was a bit over the top.    

But after today, I had to concede that the hill was tougher than I was today.    

I ran up it six times, including a slow, untimed warm-up. I had a goal of running the hill a little faster each time. Sadly, my goal was beyond my grasp. Here are my times: 2:04, 2:03, 2:11, 2:11 and 2:06.    

The last time I got to the top, I flung myself down on the park bench to catch my breath for a few seconds. Then I did the 2 1/2-mile loop again as a cool-down. It was funny how easy that loop was this time, after those hills. Momma-mia!    

Oh, this bench felt good after the sixth trip up the hill.

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Made in Indiana

Posted in Uncategorized on May 26, 2009 by Trail Boy

OK, class, today we start with a pop quiz. What do these massive buildings have in common?

Empire State Building, New York

The Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia

National Cathedral  7.10.28.181.186-3

The National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Yes, they are all gargantuan structures, and it would be cool to run the length and height of each.

But beyond that, they are all made of Indiana limestone — a fact I learned (or re-learned; I’m sure I heard this before) during my lunchtime run today.

I was taking a rare run downtown, something I usually take great pains to avoid. I’m not crazy about sidewalks or traffic or thousands of pedestrians. That’s why I’m a sucker for trails.

But I didn’t have time to drive to a trail or run before work. So I did what I had to do and ran on crowded city streets.

My particular route was a four-mile loop along the White River. The most interesting segment was a half-mile or so stretch behind the Indy Zoo called the River Promenade. It’s a shady, paved walkway bordered by more than 1,000 limestone boulders. The promenade also provides a great view of the river and the city skyline.

But it’s also like a mini history lesson of Indiana limestone. If you slow down a bit, you can read some fun facts and pictures of the topic chiseled into the rocks. Turns out that southern Indiana is home to thousands of acres of limestone quarries. A lot of it was used to build some of the world’s best-known structures.

Afterward, I did a little reading and learned a few other interesting facts. For example, 35 of the 50 state capitol buildings are made of Indiana limestone. So is the new Yankee Stadium and the Holocaust Museum.

The River Promenade in Downtown Indy, bordered by limestone bolders.

So that was my education for today.

But back to running. Overall, the outing wasn’t a bad one, even though it was 100 percent on pavement, and went through some of the busiest streets of downtown. Some days, you just have to be a little flexible, and take whatever run is available.  If you keep your eyes open, you might see something new.

And when you think about it, pavement endorphins are better than no endorphins at all.

My time was 33:49. I got back to work all refreshed and ready for a full afternoon.

Nice, easy miles, at last

Posted in Uncategorized on May 25, 2009 by Trail Boy

When your bones and joints need a break from serious trails, you can't go wrong with the flat, scenic canal towpath.

Another long run is in the books. It was the tamest weekend run I’ve had in a month. And that was just how I wanted it.

I purposely wanted to take a break from the gnarly trails that have over-stressed my body lately. For the past three weekends, I’ve run one challenging trail race after another. They were been a lot of fun. But they have taken their toll. For the past week, I’ve been trying to recover my an over-stressed right ankle and a mild fever.

This weekend, I didn’t want to tempt fate with another tough outing. It was time to crank out the miles nice and easy, without shoe-sucking mud, chilly creeks, lung-busting hills or leg-scratching briars.

And that’s what I did. I ran 13 easy miles this morning on flat ground — a mix of trails and road. I kept the speed down and stayed light on my feet. I listened closely my body for any problems.

And I got the job done without any setbacks.

That means this is a boring report. I didn’t fall down. I didn’t run into a tree. I didn’t slide down a hill.

But sometimes, boring is good. It means you did what you had to do, without any big problems.

The weather was great for most of the run — mid-50s, cloudy skies, a cool breeze. That was a pleasant surprise, after days of hot weather.

I ran the first 10 miles on the towpath. I had the trail mostly to myself. It was kind of surprising. This is a holiday weekend, when people have a little extra time, and might want to be enjoying the outdoors. t I saw only maybe five or six other runners this morning.

After about nine miles, I noticed the sky getting really dark. I could hear thunder rumbling in the distance. A minute later, the sky opened up, drenching me with a flash flood kind of downpour, while the lighning put on a laser show.

I scampered the last mile back to the parking lot, hopped in my car, hoping to wait out out the storm.

I don’t mind running in rain, or snow or sleet. But I’m not dumb enough to run in a lightning storm.

 Ten minutes later, with the rain still beating down on my Jeep’s canvas top, I decided to head home and finish the run later.

By the time I got home 15 minutes later, however, the lighting had stopped and the rain had let up to a light shower. What the heck, I thought. I grabbed my coat and a hat, and decided to run three quick laps around my neighborhood on the one-mile loop road.

Well, quick might not be the right word. My legs were a bit stiff from sitting in my Jeep. But I managed to get the 13-miler done, rain or no rain. My time was 2:01:36.

Overall, it felt so good I just might stick to the towpath next weekend, too.

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I know that I’ve fallen a bit behind in my training for The Big Race. So here’s a “new and improved” weekend training schedule for long runs for the next eight weekends. It’s just a rough guide that I will still modify as needed, but a rough roadmap is better than none. And it gives me hope that I can still get there from here.

May 30 — 15 miles (or 2 1/4 hours)

June 2 — 17 miles (or 2  1/2 hours)

June 9 — 19 miles (or 2 3/4 hours)

June 16 — 21 miles (or 3 hours)

June 23 — 23 miles (or 3 1/4 hours)

June 30 — 25 miles (or 3 1/2 hours)

July 3 — 27 miles (or 3 1/2 to 4 hours)

July 11 — Scale back to 12 miles

June 18: The race: BT50K

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One other thing that I have to squeeze in between now and July is three hours of volunteer service at a local race or trail-maintenance effort. It’s an entry requirement for the BT50K. I haven’t got a plan for that yet. Suggestions are welcome.

Sweet, sweet endorphins

Posted in Uncategorized on May 23, 2009 by Trail Boy

Everything is beautiful again.

After a week of hobbling around and/or sitting on my duff, I just had a nice, little run.

My goal was to see if I could run for a half-hour or so without my right ankle screaming in pain.

I was thrilled to make it 6 1/2 miles around my neighborhood, on flat roads, in 57:25.

My ankle never let out a peep. Now I am relaxing in a shower of endorphins.

I don’t know who is happier, me or Mrs. Trail Boy. This morning, she said, “Please get your ass out there and go running. I can’t take another day of your grouchiness.”

OK, my grouchies are gone.

Now it’s time for breakfast, then we’ll head downtown for the Indy 500 parade, where we get to see all the drivers, celebrities, marching bands and other hoo-ha strut their stuff before Sunday’s race.

On Sunday, I’m hoping to squeeze in a quick run before our road trip to Columbus for a family reunion. Then on Monday, I want to do a two-hour long run.

Of course, the challenge will be not to overdo it on the food and drink at the reunion. After a tough week like this, I need every edge I can get to get back in the game.

Time to pay the man

Posted in Uncategorized on May 22, 2009 by Trail Boy

It’s time to put a few bucks in the bank.

Well, not real bucks. And not in a real bank.

On Sunday, I’m going to spend the whole day at a family reunion with Mrs. Trail Boy’s big, rowdy family in Columbus, Ohio.bank_teller

They are a wild bunch — hundreds and hundreds of extroverted, fun-loving cousins, it seems. There’s going to be a pig roast, egg toss, karaoke singing, passing around of photo albums, long stories and basically, lots of everything. Every one is very nice and friendly, but it’s always exhausting. Plus we will have to drive three hours each way.

That should be worth a few bucks in the bank, I say.

Yep, in every marriage, there’s an accounting of funds.  Sometimes, you put money in the bank. Sometimes, you take it out.

For the last three Saturdays, I’ve made some pretty hefty withdrawals, running off to one trail race or another, leaving my family in the lurch.

My funds are low. I can’t just keep running off like this, having a great time in the woods, while the wife and kids stay home and scrub floors and milk the cows, or whatever they do.

It’s time to throw a few bucks to the teller, and get that bank account back where it needs to be.

Of course, it’s not a one-way deal. Trail Boy is a thoughtful guy, in his way. I often encourage the missus to take weekend trips with her family or college friends. Sure, that mean I have to take care of the kids, cook meals, plan activities and otherwise keep the ship on a steady course. But Mrs. Trail Boy is so appreciative. And I can just see the bank balance climbing up, up, up. 

So when it comes time do something I want to do to — travel out of state for a marathon or spend all day running through the woods at a relay race — I can stride up to the teller’s window with confidence, feeling like Donald Trump, knowing I’ve got plenty of bucks in my account.

Because there’s nothing worse than getting an overdrawn notice when you least expect it.

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BEST MUDDY SHOES I’VE SEEN IN WEEKS…..

I found this photo at a blog called “Run Trails Forever,” written by a guy named Nick.

That’s some impressive mud, Nick!

Yep, just when I thought I had seen some of the gooiest glop to found on the trails, Nick found some even better.

Nick doesn’t say where this shot took place, or how it affected his performance. If he did, I missed it.

But I did few clicks on Nick’s blog, and found out he lives in Pickerington, Ohio. Hey, isn’t that near Columbus?

Yo, Nick, I’m going to be in Columbus on Sunday. How about showing me some trails? OK, I’ve got a plan. I’ll spend a few hours at the family reunion, then slip out with Nick to run 10 miles on trails. No one will ever notice.

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Every year, around this time, I feel like a square peg in a round hole.

It’s Indy 500 weekend. If you live in Indy, like I do, you get bombarded with racing news and reminders everywhere you look.

It’s all over the radio and TV. It’s on billboards and signposts. Everyone’s got a checkered flag in their yard.

I’m not a motorsports fan. It’s just not my thing. As I see it, you sit in the bleachers at a racetrack for hours at a time, under the hot sun, watching cars make left turns over and over and over, while sucking in exhaust fumes, and hearing loud engines. 

That’s no scene for Trail Boy.

I usually keep these thoughts to myself. It’s heresy to say this kind of stuff in Indy. You don’t want your neighbors to think you’re some kind of dangerous radical.

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I hate to do it, but I’m taking a rest day. My right ankle is pretty calling the shots on this one. If I don’t let it rest, it will have the last laugh.

As a running friend often tells me, the first rule of training is to make sure you show up at the starting line healthy. Consider this a small step in that direction.